T-SPLOST was authorized through legislation which passed in the year 2010. House Bill 277 was named the "Transportation Investment Act of 2010." It passed in the Senate by a vote of 43-8 and in the House by a vote of 141-29. The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Perdue on June 2, 2010.
The legislation created 12 "special" districts throughout the state and each district was made up of several counties. This was to allow for a "coordinated design and construction of transportation projects that will develop and promote essential public interests of the state and its citizens at the state, regional and local levels."
Albany is in the Southwest Georgia District Number 10. Representatives were selected from each district. The representatives were elected officials, such as mayors and county commission chairs. Legislators also participated. Those representatives met to recommend projects beneficial to the particular district. "Projects" include roads, freight and passenger rail, existing airports, bridges, mass transit systems, bike lanes, pedestrian facilities, ports, terminals and all activities and structures useful to providing and operating the same.
Funding for the projects is through a special district sales and use tax which, if passed, would last for 10 years. The tax can be renewed, but only by voters and only after strict guidelines have been met for placing the tax on the ballot. The tax imposed is at the rate of 1 percent (one cent per dollar).
On July 31, voters in each of the districts will have the chance to vote on the T-SPLOST question. Voters from one district will not be allowed to vote for the T-SPLOST in another district (you in Albany can vote on T-SPLOST in District 10, but not in the district where Atlanta is located).
There are a lot of exemptions from the tax, contrary to a lot of rumors floating around. Examples of exemptions are (1) sale or use of any type of fuel used for off-road heavy-duty equipment, off-road farm or agricultural equipment or locomotives; (2) sale or use of jet fuel by a qualifying airline at qualifying airports; (3) sale or use of fuel that is used for propulsion of motor vehicles on the pubic highways; (4) sale or use of energy used in the manufacturing or processing of tangible goods primarily for resale.
One other concern some have raised is the tax on the purchase of motor vehicles. The tax is imposed on motor vehicles, but only for the first $5,000 of any transaction involving the sale or lease of a motor vehicle (a maximum extra $50, which may very well go toward saving you at least that with elimination of potholes which can bust tires or cause alignment issues).
The Georgia Chamber is urging a yes vote throughout the state. It has compiled some strong arguments in support of passage, which can be found at: http://connectgeorgia2012.com/downloads/revenue_map.pdf.
For those of you who will not look at the link, the first fact they submit as justification is alarming: "Despite the fact that Georgia is the third fastest growing state in the nation, it is 49th in per capita spending on transportation."
The chamber also cites a statistic as to a large number of jobs supported by highway construction and improvements. In 1978, I had firsthand experience with this concept when I was working at a local asphalt plant for a summer job. When the work was there, we ran nonstop. When it stopped, the plant sent many of us home. When we did not work, we had less money to spend and, in turn, less to fuel the local economy.
Thirty years later, I was in the last year of my time in the Legislature. We were struggling to find a solution for road improvements in Georgia and the law then proposed did not survive. Two years later, this law made it through and now you, the citizens, will be allowed in the purest form of democracy to vote on this.
Michael Meyer von Bremen is an Albany attorney and partner with Hall, Booth, Smith & Slover. A former state senator, he represented the 12th Senate District, which includes Albany, for a decade. He writes a column periodically during the legislative session on issues facing the General Assembly.